1.1 A POTTED HISTORY
In the 1950’s the site consisted of large plots growing fruit and vegetables with a few
dahlias and chrysanthemums to put in the Autumn Show. Unlike now, Sunday was not
popular and plots were mostly quiet. Now, however Sunday is our busiest (and
noisiest) day with strimmers and rotovators being used to work smaller plots containing a
mix of lawns, flower gardens, and even water features as well as the ever popular fruit
and vegetables. However it all started well before the 1950’s.
Back in the l800’s our grounds and the Kent House Lanes’ grounds were part of the
gardens of a large country house called Albion. For whatever reason they fell into
decay and the land eventually became part of the enormous Cator Estate.
During the First World War the Beckenham Council, under an Emergency Powers Act,
compulsorily purchased the grounds of both sites for use as allotments. Between l918
and l945 all the allotments in Beckenham were run as individual plots, let by the Council
to tenants. The rents were paid at the town hall by each tenant and failure to pay
meant immediate ending of the tenancy. An allotment Officer patrolled the sites
ensuring tenants abided by the terms of their lease.
Sometime between l940 and l970 the Council began a system of semi-delegated-
management on their sites. Associations of tenants were formed and were responsible
for the running of the sites. The finance and site maintenance – boundaries, trees,
fencing – were managed by the Council.
In l970 the Council, now incorporated into Bromley, started a trial scheme on five sites
known as a Management Agreement (which actually meant self-management).
Satisfied with the results they offered the scheme to any site which, in their view, had a
competent site management structure. The Kent House sites did not meet this criteria.
The two sites had opposing views on self-management causing much acrimony.
However, the situation was finally resolved and, following negotiations with the Council,
Kent House Leisure Gardens Association was finally launched in January l975. The
provision of the facilities and services on the site, which we enjoy today, could begin.
1.2 WHERE ARE WE NOW?
The site is now one of the best equipped in the area featuring:-
A superb Club House for the general use of plot holders and which can also be hired for
special occasions. (this uses the same key as the gate padlock)
Toilets with wash basins and hand driers.
Water supply with taps for hoses adjacent to most plots.
Mowers, strimmers, and rotovators for hire on Sundays (after 10 a.m.) or at other times
by arrangement with a key holder; check on machine room door for info.
Power shredder – always available.
Shop stocking fertilizers, compost, tools etc., open Sundays 10.30 a.m. – 12.30 p.m.
Spring to Autumn.
Secure gated site with small parking area, – we endeavour to maintain perimeter fences
against vandals and thieves. Please do your part by ensuring that the gates are
kept locked and by reporting any damaged fencing or incident.
Hobby Plots – some plot holders have kept ducks, chickens, and rabbits; others
specialize in bee keeping and vine culture. Obviously these require very specialized
care. If any of these appeal to you don’t be too hasty, ask for advice from
appropriate plot holders before investing any money in stock or equipment. NB
Permission from the Committee is required for the keeping of livestock on a plot.
1.3 THE FUTURE
There is still much to do in developing and maintaining the site. If all tenants contribute
to this in some way, as required under the tenancy agreement, we can provide new
and better services both for ourselves and the community to enjoy.
- THE ALLOTMENT ETHOS
Traditionally allotment holders were well known for not spending any money (mainly
because they had none). Sheds were made from scrap doors, windows and corrugated
sheets; seeds were saved and nothing was thrown away. More recently this has
changed, sheds and greenhouses have to be smart proprietary models and even
compost containers are now being made from plastic. However, with recycling
becoming more necessary perhaps a compromise will evolve.
The allotment site is another world hidden away from the traffic, fumes and noise of
Sydenham Road. It is lush and verdant, the air sweet with the tang of manure, and
almost everyone stops to say Hello. If you have too much produce you will probably
give some to your neighbours. In return, if you are lucky, you may be given crops you
have never attempted to grow: Squash from the Caribbean lady, or Peppers from the
Asian guy. Here all Nationalities rub shoulders, and there are plot holders of all ages,
men and women and several family plots. The best thing about your allotment is that
you should not feel stressed out for long.
The Association organises many events – some more social than others .e.g. Harvest
Supper, Christmas Lunch and the popular Summer Barbeques. If you have any
suggestions for one of our occasional group visits please advise the Committee.
To get the most from your membership you should make a point of visiting the Club
House and checking the Notice Board (as well as having a cup of tea and a chat).
We generally have two Open Days each year when our neighbours and the public are
invited to look around and be entertained. The Spring event is an important fund raiser
for the Association whilst the Autumn Day is more for charity. Both these events are
very important as they allow us to become a recognised part of the local community.
Many folk do not know about allotments. A great deal of hard work and planning goes
into these events and extra help is always appreciated.
Please be prepared to share in the common tasks by joining volunteer groups or as an
individual. You could also consider using your skills and expertise by joining the
2.3 Getting Advice
Neighbouring plot holders can often help. The site is also covered by Site Managers –
refer to the Notice Board in the Club House, and introduce yourself. Shop Staff can
direct you to sources of technical information in the Club House.
We always have a waiting list for plots and there is no point in having one if it is not
regularly used and maintained. We ask all plot-holders to keep at least 75% of their plot
cultivated (veg, fruit, flowers or lawn) at all times in season and for paths etc to be kept
in a safe condition. (see rules & regulations)
3. GLOSSARY OF WORDS DESIGNED TO CONFUSE
Compost – may be either the “friable organic matter” remaining after a compost heap
has matured (similar to leaf mould), or a pre-packed manufactured “growing medium”
(originally based on peat but now more commonly peat free). Generally quality
increases with cost.
“John Innes” is a standardised range of loam (soil) based composts introduced by the
John Innes Institute of Horticulture in the 1930’s, the range is : JI seed, No. 1, No. 2, &
No. 3 where seed is fine & weak and No. 3 is coarse & strong (in nutrients). N.B. JI
refers to the formula only, the product is manufactured by most compost suppliers under
their own brand name.
Crop Rotation – not the magic roundabout, but a system where crops are grown in a
different spot each year so that they are less likely to build up pests and diseases in the
soil and to avoid robbing the soil of the same nutrients season after season. Basically
crops which require plenty of manure in the soil (peas, beans, leeks, onions) are grown
together and that patch will be used for root crops the following year. Crop rotation
‘proper’ is only really practical if you have a 10 rod plot.
Chitting – storing seed potatoes with their eyes up until they sprout shoots prior to
Earlies – potatoes are grouped according to the season of “lifting” (harvesting) not
planting. i.e. “earlies” grow quicker (100 days) than a “main crop” (140 days) so require a
smaller space but also yield less.
N.B. don’t forget that your seed potatoes must be ‘chitted’ before planting, not ‘chipped’!
Organic – growing crops without the use of chemical fertilizers or pesticides.
Mulch – a “soil covering” placed around growing crops or fruit bushes etc. The ‘mulch’
suppresses weeds, retains moisture and warmth and may also be cosmetic. It varies
from black plastic polythene sheets to composted bark chips.
Plot sizes – younger plot holders educated in the bland age of metrification may be
confused by plot sizes, most of our plots are 5 or 10 rods. A rod, pole, or perch is
16.5ft therefore 1 square rod is 30.25 square yards.
i.e. 5 rods (half a plot) = 150 sq. yards
10 rods ( 1 plot) = 300 sq. yards
It goes without saying that rents are charged by the square metre!!!
4.1 KEEP IT SIMPLE.
When starting your first plot keep it small – do not attempt to cultivate a large area too
soon. If you have the time and energy to clear and dig the whole plot, fair enough, but
if not, the first patch will start showing weed growth before the last patch is cleared. It
can be very disheartening just clearing weeds with no crops to show for it. Better to
clear a small area, plant and tend a few rows, whilst covering the remainder with a weed
suppressant (available in shop)ready to be dug later.
Start by planning your plot – produce a sketch showing the position of any permanent
feature such as a shed, compost heap, shade from trees. Decide where to place any
permanent crops like cane, soft fruit, rhubarb, or asparagus. Divide the remaining area
into vegetables, flowers, grass and so on, depending on your fancy.
NB Rows of vegetables are best positioned to run north – south in order to get the
benefit of sunlight on both sides throughout the day. All vegetables require a sunny
aspect although parsnips will do well in shade. Finally, depending on the time of year,
and your own priorities, decide which of these areas to prepare and plant first.
Avoid the temptation to grow too many varieties of vegetables in your first year,
especially ‘ exotic’ crops. Decide on a limited range of varieties that you and your family
will enjoy, particularly those which are expensive or not available fresh in the shops.
These ‘high value’ crops include all soft fruit, broad beans, runner beans, peas and
spinach. Potatoes, for example, are usually cheap to buy in bulk and take up a lot of
room on the plot.
A basic tool kit should be begged, borrowed or bought, comprising:
Spade ideally ‘London pattern’ with boot savers
Fork easier to use on uncultivated ground.
Dutch Hoe to remove annual weeds in dry weather.
Rake to prepare seed beds and earth up potatoes.
Trowel for planting and spacing seedlings.
Line homemade, to align seedlings.
Secateurs for cane fruit.
Old knife to trim vegetables.
Bucket to collect weeds and keep small tools in.
Watering Can – NB Red cans are only used for weed killers (using a weed bar, not a
Avoid tools which require a twisting action unless you have a strong back.
4.2 Keep it Tidy
Many allotment sites resemble rubbish tips and are frankly an eyesore. Whilst this is
arguably an extreme example of recycling it is not realistic in an urban setting
overlooked on all sides by our neighbours’ homes. It is important that sheds and
compost containers are reasonably smart and tidy. They should also be a few inches
away from the path to allow wheelbarrows and mowers access. Please remember that
neighbouring plot holders (and perhaps their children) have to use your border paths. It
is your responsibility to cut the grass, define the path edges and keep them clear of
Any rubbish from your plot which cannot be composted should be removed from the site,
if you have transport please consider taking the rubbish to your own bin. There are
specific rules regarding Bonfires. Please refer to the notice board for up to date
4.3 Keep It Safe
We have an obligation to ourselves, other plot holders, and especially the public (on
open days and school/club visits) to maintain a ‘safe’ site – i.e. not to put anyone at risk
including ourselves. In practice:
ensure lines, tools, hosepipes and the like are not left lying around on or close to access
remove nails, hooks, sharp edges from sheds and containers adjacent to paths
stack glass frames in a ‘safe’ location
keep all pesticides in your shed when not in use
Remove broken glass and rubbish from site
4.4 Keep it Leisurely
Our allotment plots are ‘leisure gardens’ not labour camps! Don’t take on more than
you can cope with and don’t keep digging for so long that you injure your back. Take it
easy and enjoy it. If you are not enjoying a task, try a different approach. The ideal
time to cultivate, sow, or harvest can be found in any garden text book, but the best
time to do many of these tasks is when you are in the mood!
Kent House soil is an exception to the above – too wet to dig in the winter and dry like
concrete in the summer. It must be roughly dug over in late autumn (when damp but
not wet) and cultivated ready for sowing as soon as it dries out in the spring. At all costs
avoid walking on your soil in winter, use a board or plank.
- BASIC TASKS
The initial clearance – the plot you have just taken on is probably infested with weeds.
There are a number of ways in which you can deal with these:
Dig the plot, separating the out the weeds into a pile for burning (some people say you
can compost these weeds, others that seeds will survive all but the hottest compost
Slice off the top two inches of sod and weeds and leave in a pile to dry/rot down for
burning/composting then dig the plot separating out any roots that remain and adding
them to the pile.
Using a watering can and weed bar apply a systemic weed killer to the plot. Wait three
weeks for the weed killer to reach and kill the roots, then dig the plot and put the weeds
into a pile for subsequent burning. The manufacturers of some products claim that it is
safe to compost these treated weeds – check the label. NOTE; Glyphosphate based
weed killers are not permitted on site.
A rotovator is not recommended on a weedy plot. It tears up the underground
bindweed and couch grass roots into thousands of root cuttings which quickly spring
to life with even greater vigour than before!
Constructing and using a Compost Heap – composting is actively encouraged by the
Association, both as an effective means of improving your soil, and removing the need
to dump plant materials in your bin. We are fortunate to have a supply of horse manure
which is available for all members to purchase as required and this, in conjunction with
your compostable household waste and the inevitable vegetable matter your plot
generates, will, after composting, form a fine material to lighten your soil and improve
Your new plot may already have a compost heap, but if not look around the site for ideas
you may like to copy. In essence the compost heap needs:
Two containers, each 4ft x 4ft x 4ft made from timber slats, pallets, or wire mesh, but not
solid. Ideally the front should be removable for access.
Lined with newspaper to stop drying out.
Covered with a piece of old carpet to keep moisture in – water well if it should dry out.
Fill with any organic matter, plus a little sulphate of ammonia or compost activator every
9 inches. Any stems or woody matter should be shredded or hammered flat first.
Avoid composting thorny rose stems as the thorns will not compost down. Never add
waste food as this attracts vermin. When full leave for about 6 months whilst using
the second container.
If you have a large quantity of leaves from home in the Autumn, these are best
composted separately into leaf mould.
After a minimum of 6 months, spread the compost over the plot at the rate of at least
one bucket per square yard. The entire plot may be treated in the Autumn but only
mulch around fruit bushes and mature crops in Summer. Runner bean rows benefit
from large quantities of compost being incorporated in the Spring.
Applying Lime – apply lime to your soil to in order to ‘sweeten’ it, i.e. make it less acidic.
The amount of chalk or lime in the soil governs its acidity/alkalinity, and hence the type
of plants that will grow in it. Lime should be applied at least 4 weeks after adding the
Autumn compost or at least 4 weeks before Spring cultivation as the rain will have to
wash it in .As a rule of thumb BRASSICAS, beans, peas and onions do better with lime
whilst root crops and potatoes don’t. However lime is gradually lost from the soil and
needs replenishing every few years.
Preparing a Seed Bed – in early Spring as soon as the soil is dry enough, lightly fork
over the surface to break up the clods and relieve compaction. Work in any fertilizer and
finally use the back of the fork to “bash” down the surface and lightly “rake” over.
Always work off a plank or board unless your plot has permanent paths otherwise the
soil will get seriously compacted. Two to three weeks later crops may be sown,
provided the weather is suitable. In the meantime consider protecting the seed bed
from bad weather with a cloche or plastic sheet.
Sowing and Planting – decide what vegetables you are going to grow. Generally
vegetables may be grown from seed, seedlings, or small plants. This is summarised in
Hoeing out the Weeds – this is most effective on a ‘good drying day’. If you do this
when the soil is wet it will only move the weeds about. Use the Dutch Hoe regularly to
‘chop off’ weeds between the crops. Work backwards using a push/pull action so that
the blade skims the surface of the soil without digging in too far. Maintain sharp edges
back and front.
- SUPPLYING NUTRIENTS
The three main nutrients are Nitrogen (N) for leaf and shoot growth, Phosphorus (P) for
roots, and Potassium (K) for flowers and fruit.
Nitrogen is easily washed out of the soil during the winter so it needs to be replaced
each spring, it is best applied as a “base dressing” raked into the soil before sowing or
planting a crop and as a “top dressing” applied to established crops.
Phosphate and Potash are relatively stable and only need topping up. This can be
achieved organically by incorporating 10lb/sq.yd. of well rotted stable manure or good
garden compost. An inorganic substitute is 2oz Super phosphate/sq.yd. plus 1 oz.
Sulphate of Potash. Time is not too important but Autumn is best.
7% Growmore (+ 7% P. & 7% K).
12% Nitrate of Potash.
15% Calcium Nitrate/Nitrate of Soda.
21% Nitro chalk/Sulphate of Ammonia.
12% Dried Blood (Plus 2.5% P. & 1 % K) (Organic)
Phosphorus may be Supplied by:-
20% Super phosphate*
44% Triple Phosphate is also available*
7% Bone Meal (+ 4% N) (Organic)*
2.5% Hoof and Horn (+ 14% N)(Organic)*
Potassium may be Supplied by:-
36% Nitrate of Potash (also supplies Nitrogen)*
49% Sulphate of Potash*
5% Seaweed Extract (+ 1.5% N) (Organic)*
* These are all slow release and should be
applied well before the growing season.
Green Manures – if the ground is left bare over winter soil fertility will be reduced as
nutrients, especially nitrogen, are washed out by the rain. Green manures are vigorous
crops grown purely to benefit the soil. As they grow they take up available nutrients and
protect the soil structure. In the Spring the manure crops are still young and sappy
enough to be dug straight back into the soil, where they will quickly decompose – to
provide food for the succeeding plants.
Lime – the amount of chalk or lime in the soil governs its acidity/alkalinity, and hence the
type of plants that will grow in it. As a rule of thumb: BRASSICAS, beans, peas and
onions do better with lime whilst root crops and potatoes don’t. However the lime is
gradually lost from the soil and needs replenishing every few years.
- PESTS AND DISEASES
7.1 Pests : Don’t be too alarmed at the long list of pests and diseases in
gardening books; many will never be encountered and some are mainly cosmetic,
looking bad but still producing a reasonable (if reduced) crop. The best defence is to
grow vigorous plants with adequate supplies of water, nutrients, light and air. These will
be healthy enough to survive most attacks, whereas plants that are weak and struggling
are far more likely to succumb. However, a few common problems are worth listing:
Squirrels, foxes and cats are all common on our site and are difficult to discourage, but
please do not encourage them on to your plot.
Pigeons are especially annoying in the winter when other food is scarce. Black netting
stretched over a frame is essential for winter cabbage and can also be used over soft
fruit, cane fruit and bushes to prevent general bird damage.
Butterflies and caterpillars – a net over cabbages may discourage cabbage white
butterflies but they are just as likely to get themselves trapped inside. The best
approach is to be vigilant and pick off caterpillars as soon as they appear. They cause
damage on all brassicas and on gooseberry bushes (sawfly).
Carrot fly eggs hatch into white maggots which infest mature roots – less of a problem
on early and late sowings. This pest flies about a foot off the ground so rows can be
given some protection by fencing them in with a foot high barrier of shade netting or
fleece. Alternatively keep covered by fleece for as long as is practicable. The fly
scents the carrot plant and may be confused by interplanting the carrots with garlic or
onions. In any case always move thinnings and tops well away from the crop and
bury them in compost heaps. There are a few varieties that claim some resistance to
attack and may be worth a try.
Flea beetle – this tiny pest perforates leaves of radishes, turnips and swede but it can
be discouraged by keeping the row damp and covering with fleece.
As a general rule slow moving pests are bad (slugs, snails, wireworms). They are
vegetarian and don’t need to move very quickly. Beetles, ladybird lava and spiders are
carnivores and have to catch these pests, so quick is good!
7.2 Disease : Clubroot is a fairly common fungal disease affecting all brassicas,
including radishes and wallflowers. It causes the roots to swell and seriously reduces
the yield. There is no cure but its effects can be limited by growing seedlings on in
containers before planting in infected soil. Prevention is easier than cure. Never grow
any brassicas in the same bed more than one year in three and always lime the soil well
before planting. If your soil is infected take care not to transfer it on to other plots on
boots, tools or wheelbarrows.
Good garden hygiene will combat many problems. Rubbish, dead leaves and twigs
harbour pests and diseases so put them on the compost heap and keep the rows free
from debris and weeds. Where possible it is better to burn or bin diseased growth
rather than compost it.
Browse the shelves of the allotment shop to see which chemicals are currently available
to combat these problems. They have not been listed in this section because there
are fewer varieties available each year.
FINALLY WELCOME AGAIN TO KENT HOUSE LEISURE GARDENS AND
GOOD LUCK WITH YOUR HORTICULTURAL ENDEAVOURS. IF YOU
HAVE FOUND THIS DOCUMENT USEFUL PLEASE MAINTAIN IT SO THAT
OTHERS MAY ALSO BENEFIT. IF NOT – PLEASE MODIFY IT!.
VARIETY SUPPORT 1 MANURE 2 LIME 3 SEED PLANT 4
Broad Some Yes Yes Either
Kidney Wire Net Yes Yes Either
Runner Canes Yes Yes Either
Beetroot Cloche/Fleece No – Seed
Brassicas Net No Yes Plant
Carrots Fleece No – Seed
Leeks – Yes – Plant
Lettuce Cloche – Yes Plant
Marrow – Yes No Plant
Onions – Yes Yes Either
Parsnips Fleece No Yes Seed
Peas Wire Yes Yes Either
Potatoes Earth Up Yes No –
Radish Fleece – – Seed
Spinach – Yes Yes Seed
1.Supprt or protection require
4.Sow seed direct in soil or transplant seedlings/modules
Appendix 2 F A Q ‘s
Foxes Discourage and please do not feed.
Sheds Needs approval. Max size 8ft x 6ft. Colour dark brown or green.
Roof should drain to a water butt.
Greenhouse As above.
Bonfires (on plot) Monday to Friday 9am to 7pm in winter only.
Hosepipes Hand held only and with auto stop nozzle on the end.
BBQ / Firepit Any time, but don’t spoil your neighbours enjoyment.
Ponds No restriction within reason!.
Temporary gazebos in summer. As above.
A full year planner is maintained in the clubhouse, but generally:
2 nd Sunday Work Day
2 nd Monday Committee meeting
Wednesday before committee is plot inspection (April – Oct)
AGM 1 st Sunday in April (or after Easter)
Open Day 3 rd Sunday in May (Not BH)
1 st Sunday in Oct ditto